Signs & Portents





Chapter 23

And Out of it, as Wind Along the Waste


They had found Morton's bus parked where he had left it, over 200 miles from where he woke up on Mt. Shasta. This find had prompted his ex-wife, who had eventually been notified by the California Highway Patrol, to file a missing person report on him. His failure to show up for work plus the suspicious circumstances of the abandoned vehicle had furthered her cause. This initial police involvement resulted in Morton receiving a visit from a police officer.

The policeman listened impassively to Morton's story, but seemed unimpressed. He was interested only if Morton had accompanied the ladies voluntarily? Morton had to concede that he had agreed to come with them. Having received that acknowledgement, the policeman quickly terminated the interview.

He was one of the few ordinary visitors Morton got during his hospital stay, unless you counted the members of the press, who were either openly rude, or adopted poses of amused superiority.

Yet something compelled Morton to tell and retell his story, although he suspected he would get little fair treatment from them. He was not pleasantly surprised, the stories that resulted were even wilder than those that had appeared after the original leak, which must have come from some hospital employee, Morton was sure that the old Forest Ranger had said nothing.

The press had made Morton rather famous, and it was evidenced by the incredible assortment of individuals who streamed into the hospital to see him. Most of them claimed to represent flying saucer groups of type or another. Morton was astounded at amazing scope and variety. They were a strange crew and subjected Morton to what amounted to virtual harassment in spite of the hospital's ineffectual attempts to keep their numbers down.

But it was through the agency of one of these, a man who introduced himself as Leroy Cummings, that Morton now was about to get his bus back on the eve of his discharge from the hospital. He was grateful for that, inasmuch as he had paranoid visions of being accosted and mobbed by his following, if he sought to leave by any means of public transportation.

Leroy, who had announced himself as the representative of the UFO Investigative Agency (UFOIA), was a practical man who seemed to take charge. It was he, who thought of things like driving Morton's bus up to the hospital so he could sneak out the back way and drive home. Leroy also listened to his story with keen interest, asked intelligent questions, and took copious notes. As he began to recover from the over-exposure that had weakened his mind and body, Morton was growing leery and weary of strangers who wanted to hear his story. However, he really liked Leroy.

One of the first things Leroy had warned him about was attempting to tell his story to the press. By this time, Morton had come to that conclusion on his own and could readily see Leroy's wisdom. Leroy also urged him to adopt a policy of refusing to talk to anyone—other than himself—about his experiences. He reiterated many truths that Morton had already learned the hard way, and assured him that he was now in the capable hands of UFOIA and future troubles were over.

Morton was not too sure about the stability and competence of UFOIA, but then, as now, Leroy began making himself extremely helpful. It was he who fended off some of the unwelcome visitors, Morton was oblivious to the amount of rivalry in the UFO business, and he was forever on hand to console and advise as Morton began to try to put the pieces of his life back together.

What the life he had previously enjoyed up to his saucer experience, was now on shaky ground. His employers had definitely been chilly and reserved, suggesting he take a long rest.

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So far, in fact, Leroy was the single truly sympathetic individual in his immediate sphere.
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Even the doctors at the hospital were decidedly brusque. It was a motherly nurse, who in collaboration with Leroy, had taken pity on him and set up his secret night departure from the hospital.

Morton had reached two conclusions by the time he said goodbye to Leroy in the hospital parking lot and climbed into his bus to drive home. His experience was real, of course, of that he was unashamed. But he had made a serious mistake in attempting to share it with a world not yet ready for it, of that he was equally certain. For that matter, there were aspects of his experience that he himself did not understand. He needed time. Time to evaluate and work things through.

This he got on the road back, almost three hours of it. He became aware that his bus was filling up with an even white light.



Resignedly, he pulled off the road ready for anything.

He became aware of Gari's face floating in front of the windshield. At least, he thought it was Gari, the Euminides sisters looked much alike. By what advanced technology this projected image was possible, he couldn't imagine.

"We have come a long journey from those stars you call the Hyades. We have selected you, Morton, because there is very little time left. The weather is changing on your world, Morton, and that is a bad sign. You know this yourself because the rains come and do not stop. We will return again, Morton, and prove all that we say."

She left as she had come, fading out along with the white light.

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After a time, Morton started the engine of the bus and pulled back onto the highway. As he drove on, it again started to rain. Dimly and distantly, he recalled that ancient man had somehow associated the Hyades with rain.

Into this Universe, and Why not knowing,
Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, will-nilly blowing.


The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
as rendered into English by Edward Fitzgerald


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